The Only Diet You Need is a Spending Diet

Fun chef

It’s hard to go even one day without seeing an advertisement for some “fast, amazing, unbelievable” diet. Even if you somehow managed to spend your days away from the television, internet, or social media, you still have to deal with the many times you hear friends and co-workers talk about “losing a few pounds” or trying a new program.

Unfortunately, the diet probably won’t last long and old habits will reign once again. The problem is, psychologically, these dieters aren’t preventing the temptation from catching their eye. And how can they? If one person brings cookies to the office, the dieter might think, “Well, one bite won’t hurt. I don’t want to hurt Suzy’s feelings, she worked hard to bake these.” If that same dieter watches television, the chances are high that they will see at least three food-related commercials during that time too.

What does all of this have to do with money? When someone tries to spend less money (in an effort to trim down expenses), they encounter the same temptation as the food dieters mentioned above. They may go out with friends who are all buying coffees at Starbucks, or they may think that spending a few dollars here or there won’t really hurt their mission to save money.

If you think that, then you need to go on a spending diet. Yes, you read correctly, a spending diet. No matter your reasoning (maybe your significant other lost their job or you’re drowning in student loan debt payments), a spending diet is a simple solution to a seemingly difficult problem.

When you go on a diet, you typically try to rid your kitchen of all of the foods that are now no-no’s. For a spending diet use this concept and hide or cut up all your credit or debit cards. If you can’t find the box of Oreos, you can’t eat it – the same idea goes for your cards.

As for those temptations that are less in your control (like Suzy’s famous cookies), take a step back to think before acting. Do you really need a coffee at 11 in the morning, or is it just the normal stop on your mid-morning walk around the office building?

Spending diets are easy to set up and even easier to implement.

First thing is first: commit to it! Tell yourself that, for exactly one month, you will track what you are spending (and attempt to keep that number as close to $0 as you can).

Second step: cut the temptation in any way possible! One big motivator to stay on your diet is if you constantly remind yourself about the reason for why you began the spending diet in the first place: debt repayment, job loss, saving for a big expense, etc. Your motivator will help you when that 11am coffee is calling your name from across the plaza.

As with any diet, it is okay to slip. Maybe you left your travel mug of coffee on your kitchen counter this morning, and you seem to be dragging today. One $5 morning coffee won’t kill you, or your diet. But just one!

The best way to ensure you keep those extra expenses from creeping up, is to only carry cash for the month you decide to diet.  If you only have $5 on you, that is all you can spend. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you need to accept the fact you can’t just whip out your credit card to buy a second coffee (because you hid it at the beginning of the month, remember?).

The spending diet can be an effort to either slim or eliminate non-necessity spending. This much is up to you. Just like a food diet, you need to make the spending diet work for you and your finances, and only you can decide how much you truly want to spend (or save).

Article Source: Will Lipovsky for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/frugality/the-only-diet-you-need-is-a-spending-diet/

 

10 Financial Habits You Should Start Today

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When you look at people who are financially fit, they all have several things in common. They know the value of money and have developed plans and habits that keep them in shape — financially speaking, of course. They are never late with their bills. They know the value of money. They have little to no debt at all.

These are their habits. They all have this common thread, which binds them together. They know what to do when it comes to money — and what not to do. They may not have thousands of dollars in the bank, but they are still financially fit. They just handle money in a way that seems magical to many of us.

The truth is that it is not magic. There is no secret formula that they follow. They have one thing in common: Good financial habits.

Anyone can do this. You just need to know where to start. Below, you will find 10 habits that these people all have in common. Best of all, they are things you can start doing today.

1. Have a Written Budget

This is the key to any financial plan. Many people – sort of, have a budget. They know who they have to pay each month, but maybe it’s not in writing. When you have a written budget, you see exactly where your money goes. Best of all, you can direct your money where you want it to go. You can decide what you want to save and how much you want to spend on groceries. When writing out your budget, be sure to include every single expense (don’t forget about the coffee you stop for every morning or if you pay for parking each day). Your budget is your roadmap to financial success.

2. Pay Your Bills On Time

Never be late with your bills. There are so many ways to ensure they get paid on time, including easily setting up automatic payments or setting reminders on your phone. You can even use a calendar and write in due dates. When you pay your bills on time you show you are responsible. Not only that, but you won’t have to worry about late fees either.

3. No Need for Immediate Satisfaction

It can be tempting when you are shopping to pick up that new bag or pair of shoes. However, do you really need them? Will buying them truly make you happy? Why do you want to buy them? Asking yourself these questions can help you avoid emotional purchases, which typically only lead to buyer’s guilt later on. If you do want to buy something, use the 24 hour rule: Go home and think about it. Check your budget, and if 24 hours later you still really want and can afford the item – go ahead and purchase it.

4. Try Not to Use Credit or Debit Cards

Cash is one of the best ways to ensure you are financially fit. Even if you think you use credit cards the right way and pay them off each month, you could still be overspending. For example, if you only have $100 to spend on groceries, you can’t spend even $101 if you only have cash. If you are using plastic, it’s often too easy to spend more than you anticipate.

5. Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Have regular budget updates with your other half – look over your finances and check your spending. Don’t hide money or spending – just be honest. Try to make time for a monthly meeting, and add it to both of your calendars so you can go over your budget together.

6. Pay Down Debt

Take steps to pay off any debt you have. If there’s a lot of it, you will probably need to create a debt pay off plan. It may take some time, but you can do it!

7. Save Money Every Month

Your budget should include a line item for every penny you earn, including savings. Saving could be needed for retirement, holidays, emergencies, and so on. There is never a right or wrong thing to save for. The best trick here is to automate your savings. When it’s automatic, you can never make excuses for yourself that you can’t save. Instead, it’s money not available for you to spend – and this is never a bad thing!

8. Live Within Your Means

Who wouldn’t love a huge house or fancy car? We all would – but can you actually afford it? Everyone has a different income, therefore the way we live will be different based upon that income. The real difference is not in how much you make, but in what you spend.  If you can’t afford that huge house right now, you shouldn’t buy it.

9. Use Credit Wisely

Credit cards can be a great way to not only build your credit, but also to gain rewards and perks. But, you need to use credit cards the right way. Never charge more than what you have in the bank – if you only have $500 in your account, do not charge more. The reason being, a payday is never a guarantee. You should generally be able to pay your balance in full each month, and on time.

10. Balance Your Accounts Regularly

While you can use online banking 24/7 to check your account balances, there may still be transactions that haven’t posted yet, checks that haven’t cleared, and online bills that haven’t been reflected yet either. If you balance your account regularly, you know exactly what you have to spend.

These 10 habits will easily get you to be financially fit.  You don’t have to start with all ten at once – even if you master a few now and slowly add in the others, you’ll be financially fit in no time!

Article Source: Tracie Fobes for Gobankingrates.com, https://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/financial-habits-need-start-today/

Need to Lower Your Grocery Bill? Bring Some Old Fashioned Frugality into Your Kitchen

Couple shopping in supermarket

Does it feel like your grocery bill keeps growing? Maybe you’re eating healthier or haven’t been as diligent about shopping sales ads and using digital coupons, rewards cards, or rebate apps. Or maybe, too many convenience foods are creeping into your kitchen.

Convenient prepared foods – even their healthy versions – are convenient. It’s nice to have pre-cut, pre-mixed, prepared foods for the times our schedules get a little hectic, but they can quickly become an excuse to get lazy about food preparation — and jack up the grocery bill.

Back in the ‘olden’ days, people didn’t have the option of prepared breads, sauces, dressings, or meals-in-a-box. They used basic staples to make everything they needed. It’s time to bring some old-fashioned frugality back into our kitchens. Here’s how we can do it.

Stop Buying Pre-Cut Veggies!

It’s easy to want to buy baby-cut carrots because, well who wants to peel and cut a bag of whole carrots when you can buy them ready made? Stop to realize the price difference between the two – roughly 50 to 60 cents per pound. Ouch! It only takes about five minutes to peel and chop a bag of carrots. Also keep a lookout for pre-cut vegetables that are on sale. Reduced-price chopped veggies might be past their prime for snacking, but they’re great for throwing in a quick stir fry.

Learn How to Make Things from Scratch

The term “from scratch” is scary to some people because it evokes images of slaving over the stove. In reality, there are dozens of items we use on a regular basis that don’t take much time – or skill – to make from scratch. Not only will this help you stay within your grocery budget, but you’ll enjoy fresher, less preservative-packed foods. Take a look in your fridge and pantry and write down staples you use on a regular basis. Can you learn how to make some of these just from watching a few YouTube videos or looking on Pinterest? Here are some suggestions:

■ Dressings – most contain five or less basic ingredients you probably already have on hand and take only a few minutes to whip up.

■ Sauces – these may require a little more time simmering, but still easy.

■ Hummus and other dips.

■ Oat and almond flour — just blend oats or almonds.

■ Bread – no-knead breads are easy to make even if you’re not into baking.

■ Cereal, granola, protein and energy bars.

Preserve In-Season Bounty

Produce is at its best and cheapest in the summer and fall, but then January rolls around. The word “preserve” elicits visions of canning and pickling, but the modern alternative is simple – prepare and freeze. You might be surprised at some of the things you can freeze. Most vegetables and fruits keep well frozen, and you can also freeze trays of fresh herbs in olive oil, broth, and egg whites or yolks.

Re-grow It

Don’t have time for a garden? No problem. Scallions, celery cores and herbs can all be grown and re-grown right in your windowsill.

Bring Back the Sunday Roast

Save money on meat by buying tougher, cheaper cuts and slow-roasting them in broth, herbs, and spices for a few hours. Plus, if you start the roast early, you won’t have to wait for dinner.

Just because we have so many convenient, prepared foods at our fingertips doesn’t mean we have to use them. Bringing back a few old-fashioned practices into your kitchen will shave your grocery bill and revitalize your enjoyment of fresh, homemade ingredients at the same time.

Happy cooking (and saving)!

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/shopping-smart/need-to-lower-your-grocery-bill-bring-some-old-fashioned-frugality-into-your-kitchen/

Ways to Save Money this Halloween

halloweenAccording to a poll from the National Retail Federation, Americans are planning on spending more than ever this Halloween. It’s estimated that we will spend $8.4 billion this year, which breaks down to an average $82.93 per shopper. If that number seems a little too spooky for you, follow these saving tricks to treat your budget.

Get your candy from warehouse clubs.

Places like Sam’s Club or Costco are great for buying anything in bulk and yield a ton in savings. If you have a membership to one of these stores, they already have a variety of candy available. You’ll probably save enough to be able to buy a few extra bags.

Hold off on buying those pumpkins.

The search for the perfect pumpkin is one of the best parts of the holiday. Postpone the search until as close to Halloween as possible, as many stores will give discounts in order to clear out inventory. Not to mention the pumpkins you carve won’t have time to rot before their big day, and you can use the uncarved pumpkins for thanksgiving decorations!

Search around for free activities in the community.

A lot of community centers, schools, museums, churches and other local venues host free Halloween events for their communities. Look at your local newspaper, Facebook events, or community calendars to plan your holiday outings. Don’t forget to check out our monthly Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties blog post too!

Make or share your Halloween costumes.

You can find plenty of tutorials and tips online for making Halloween costumes with inexpensive materials. Some blogs suggest making the costume creation process a competition with your kids by giving them a budget and letting them loose in a thrift shop. You can also lend and borrow costumes with your friends which is great way to not spend anything, acquire new costumes, and still look good at the same time.

Craft your own decorations.

The scariest part of Halloween isn’t the decorations themselves, it’s how much they can cost. To save big, head over to your local dollar store and pick up some supplies to craft your own decorations.

Happy Halloween!

Article Source: Tyler Atwell for CU Insight, https://www.cuinsight.com/ways-save-money-halloween.html

 

Simple Steps to Save on Home Heating Costs this Fall

Family Relaxing Indoors Playing Chess And Reading Book

The air is getting crisper every morning and the leaves are starting to change color and drop. It means that fall is truly here. You probably don’t want to think about what season is coming next, but it’s a good idea to get an early start to slashing the upcoming “w” word’s energy bills. Here are some simple things you can do now that will pay off in the colder days to come.

Clean, Service or Upgrade Your Heating System                                                       

One of the simplest and cheapest things you can do to maximize your furnace’s efficiency is to replace the air filter – now, and then every 30 to 45 days. Make it easy for yourself by setting mobile calendar reminders. If your furnace hasn’t been serviced by a professional in a few years, that’s also a good idea too. Just like other pieces of equipment, heating systems need a ‘tune up’ every now and then. Finally, if you’re due for a new furnace, take advantage of federal tax credits (up to $500) by purchasing one that meets the Department of Energy’s efficiency standards. Upgrade to solar, wind, geothermal or fuel-cell technology, and you’ll be reimbursed 30% of the cost, including installation (you’ll need to fill out Tax Form 5695 when the time comes).

Install a Programmable Thermostat (and Lower It)

It makes sense not to waste heat when you don’t need it. Even the cheapest programmable thermostat can save up to $150 a year, so invest the time and money to install one. Lowering the temperature 10 to 15 degrees during the sets of eight hours you’re at work and sleeping at night could lower your bill as much as 10%. Even lowering it one degree during the day correlates to a 2% decrease in heating costs.

Keep the Heat – Curtains, Leaks and Upgrades

Keeping the curtains on south-facing windows open during the day helps heat your home naturally with sunlight, while closing them at night keeps out chilly air. Besides weather-proofing windows, look for other places your home is leaking energy: worn weather strips, mail slots, around pipes and wire holes, through unfinished spaces, and in the attic – where the majority of heat rises and then escapes. Caulk, weather strip, and insulate everything you can. Replacing old insulation, roofing, windows and doors with more energy-efficient counterparts will ultimately save the most, especially since you can recoup the expense by claiming that energy tax credit (10% of the cost up to $500, or a specific amount from $50 to $300).

Enjoy the Fireplace

Fall is the perfect time to take advantage of a natural fireplace if you have one, not only for the ambiance – but for the energy savings (as long as you remember to close the damper between uses). Lower the thermostat to between 50 and 55 degrees and close surrounding doors to keep the area toasty. The energy savings only work if your fireplace is a traditional log burning one. If you turn on a gas fireplace, you aren’t really saving anything by turning that on instead of the heater since both units typically run on gas.

Increasing your heating efficiency and lowering your energy bill really isn’t that hard, and just think what you could do with that extra wiggle room in your budget: debt repayment, retirement savings, college savings, or just some short-term savings goals (maybe even holiday spending).

Take a few steps while it’s fall, and you’ll be thankful the rest of the winter!

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/frugality/simple-fall-steps-to-save-on-home-heating-costs/

5 Ways to Save Money During Fall

beautiful autumn leaves of maple tree

The fall is a favorite season to many, and it is easy to see why. The weather is nice, the leaves turn beautiful colors, and of course there’s pumpkin spice lattes. Here’s another reason to love fall – it saves you money. Here are five ways to save money this fall – you won’t want to overlook these tips!

1. Indulge in More Inexpensive Meals

When the weather starts to turn breezy, soup and chili are the perfect comfort foods. Take advantage of your slow cooker and these inexpensive meal choices. Another great thing about making soups and chili is that you can freeze them, prep them ahead of time, and even throw in random leftovers you have waiting for you in the fridge. It takes about five minutes to throw everything in the crockpot!

2. Skip Out of Season Produce

Don’t even get tempted by summer produce this season. Not only are berries and melons overpriced in the fall, they are also not as nutritionally dense when they are out of season. Instead, opt for frozen alternatives, or take advantage of apples and squash sales. Basically, produce that rises in price by a great deal during the “off-season” needs to be seriously considered before you buy because in this case, high price doesn’t mean a better product.

3. Goodbye Gym

If you have the option to opt out of your gym membership, then do so. Fall is the perfect time to exercise outside for free. Plus, let’s be honest, most gym memberships get wasted during the holiday season because life gets too busy. Canceling your gym membership for fall can save you over $100. Then, if you want to join up again, you can take advantage of the New Year’s sign up deals every gym offers.

4. Enjoy Better Travel Deals

Now that summer has ended and children are back in school, it is one of the best times to travel. Not only will you find a lot of travel deals, but a lot of popular locations will not be as crowded. Many people take cruises in October. The prices are typically half of what they were during the summer and the weather is a little more manageable in the Caribbean.

5. Give Your Thermostat a Break

Another reason to love fall is that you can go without using your air conditioning or heat. Of course, all areas are different – but generally you can get by at least for awhile. Decorate your home with plush throws and rely on hot drinks, such as herbal tea or homemade apple cider to keep you warm at night.

Article Source: Ashley Eneriz for Money Ning, http://moneyning.com/frugality/5-ways-to-save-money-during-fall/